The selection below was adapted from The Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco.
Towards the end of 1844, Don Bosco was busy finishing a book promoting devotion to the guardian angels. He had started on it earlier. He personally was very grateful to God for the privilege of having been given a guardian angel. We heard him quote countless times: “To His Angels he has given his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Upon their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Ps. 90, 11-12)
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Hence, he had a fervent love and deep devotion to his guardian angel, whose feast day he celebrated every year. He was so convinced that his angel was ever at his side that one might say he saw him with his own eyes. He would greet him several times a day with the Angel of God prayer. Throughout his life, he greatly trusted in his protection. He entrusted himself and his boys to their guardian angels. Indeed, his guardian angel certainly assisted him in founding and governing all his undertakings.
One day, Don Bosco told the boys how Blessed Joan of the Cross had been privileged to see her guardian angel from childhood. He guided her to the religious state. When she became the convent’s superior, she ruled it wonderfully through every difficult situation. Whenever any infraction of the rule took place, the angel would suggest to her ways and means of correcting those concerned.
When Don Bosco told this story, we wondered whether he was not also favored with the same privileges. We couldn’t help but think that he, too, was guided personally by his guardian angel. After all, did he not reveal the most humanly unknowable secrets throughout his life? What about his dreams and that mysterious person he said was ever at his side? Who was he?
In any case, as it may, he knew how to instill in his boys a great reverence and love for their guardian angels. He often intoned a hymn in honor of guardian angels that he had set to music, which the boys sang with great enthusiasm. He used to tell them: “Be ever more convinced that your guardian angel is really present and that he is ever at your side. Saint Frances of Rome always saw her angel standing before her; his arms clasped on his breast, his eyes uplifted to heaven; but at her slightest failing, he would cover his face as if in shame and, at times, turn his back to her.”
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To instill trust in guardian angels, Don Bosco often told the story of Tobias and the Archangel Raphael, the miracle of the three young men who remained unscathed amid the flames of the furnace in Babylon and other stories abounding in Holy Scripture and church history.
He never tired of speaking about this most dedicated heavenly friend in his sermons. “Be good,” he would say. “This will make your guardian angel happy. When physical or spiritual sorrows and misfortunes afflict you, turn to your guardian angel with strong trust, and he will help you. How many people in mortal sin were saved from death by their angels so they might have a chance for confession? Woe to those who give scandal! The guardian angels of innocent victims will cry out for vengeance to God.”
Don Bosco, in private talks, always gave generous advice to everyone, especially to his penitents, according to their needs! “Remember that you have an angel as a companion, guardian and friend. If you wish to please Jesus and Mary, obey your guardian angel’s inspirations. When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Take courage and pray because your guardian angel also will pray for you, and your prayers will be answered. Ignore the devil, and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at your guardian angel’s sight. Ask your angel to console and assist you in your last moments.”
Later, many boys told Father Rua how they had received extraordinary graces and escaped danger, thanks to this devotion that Don Bosco had inspired in them.
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He suggested certain days on which his boys could especially honor their guardian angels. In speaking and writing, he gave the following instructions:
- The Church sets aside Tuesdays as a day of special remembrance of the guardian angels. If you wish to imitate Saint Aloysius, who dearly loved his guardian angel, I suggest you practice some special mortification in his honor on these days. You might give up something you like, pray with your arms crossed on your chest or kiss the crucifix. If you can, give some alms as the Archangel Raphael advised Tobias to do.
- Your birthday marks the beginning of when your Guardian Angel took charge over you. Therefore, on this day, renew the promises you made in his presence at Baptism, namely, that you will love and imitate Jesus Christ and obey His Holy Law. Sanctify this day by making a fervent Communion or praying a little more than usual. Perform some other act of devotion in token of your gratitude to him for having first shown his love for you by becoming your guardian angel.
- On the first day of every month, you would do well to meditate on the Four Last Things by seriously considering the purpose for which God created you. Examine the state of your conscience following the example of so many devout people who are also interested in saving their souls. You should ask yourself what would happen to you if you should die at this particular moment, and then you should go to Confession and Communion. Do good while you still have time.
The advice given extended throughout Don Bosco’s entire life. Even in those early years of the oratory, he knew how to avail himself of this powerful means of attracting boys who had formerly been street urchins to a virtuous life. They faithfully followed his counsel about the guardian angles.
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One day, an astonishing incident confirmed their good father’s instructions. On one Sunday, the boys were all gathered in the sacristy of St. Francis of Assisi Church. Don Bosco gave each boy a holy picture with a prayer to the Guardian Angel on it. He then exhorted them: “Pray to your Guardian Angel. Invoke his aid if you should find yourself in any serious danger of body or soul, and I assure you that he will help and protect you.”
A few days later, one boy, an apprentice bricklayer, was working on a new building. As he went to and fro on the scaffold, a support suddenly snapped. He felt the wooden planks on which he and two others were standing give way. At the first ominous splintering of wood, he realized that there was no escape. The scaffold collapsed, and the three boys plunged from the fourth story to the street below amid a rain of planks, bricks and stones.
Falling from such a height meant certain death. However, this good boy, while falling, remembered Don Bosco’s words and loudly invoked his Guardian Angel. “O my good Angel, help me!” His prayer saved him. Of the three boys that fell, one died instantly, and another, critically injured, died shortly after reaching the hospital.
As the people rushed to the young apprentice, believing him dead, he scrambled to his feet safe and sound, without even a scratch. He lost no time in climbing up again to help rebuild the scaffold.
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On the following Sunday, he returned to St. Francis of Assisi, where he told his astonished companions what had happened. It was a wonderful confirmation of the truth of Don Bosco’s promise. Consequently, the boys’ trust in their Guardian Angels became all the stronger and produced magnificent spiritual fruits in their souls.
This singular event prompted Don Bosco to put together the aforementioned booklet titled “The Devotee of the Guardian Angel.” In just seventy-two pages, he gave the reasons to induce the faithful to seek and merit the protection of this most sublime spirit. He divided his subject matter into ten considerations, which were to serve as preparation for the Feast of the Holy Angels. The topics included:
- God’s Goodness in Entrusting Us to the Care of His Angels
- The Angels’ Love for Us
- The Angels’ Daily Favors to Us
- Their Special Assistance in Time of Prayer, Temptation, and Tribulation: At Our Death and Judgment and in Purgatory
- The Angels’ Compassion for Sinners
- The Love We Should Feel for Our Angel in Return for His Love for Us
A brief spiritual memento, a suggested good deed and an anecdote followed each consideration.
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Would it not do us all a world of good in these God-forsaken days to have a fervent and intimate relationship with our guardian angels? Let us take the example and advice of Saint John Bosco to heart and practice this advice right now!
May Our Lady Help of Christians bless, protect and grant you many choice graces to heed your guardian angel’s inspirations so that you realize God’s plan for you.